The BSA, the ASA and “good taste”


Here in New Zealand we have a thing called the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA).

Their mission statement is that they will “Support fairness and freedom in broadcasting through impartial complaints determination, effective research and informing stakeholders.” I don’t know why they call it supporting freedom – perhaps it sounds nice – but basically what they do is hear complaints about things that have been broadcast on television and radio and decide whether or not to uphold the complaint. Their functions are:

(a) To receive and determine complaints…

(c) To publicise its procedures in relation to complaints; and
(d) To issue to any or all broadcasters, advisory opinions relating to broadcasting standards and ethical conduct in broadcasting; and
(e) To encourage the development and observance by broadcasters of codes of broadcasting practice appropriate to the type of broadcasting undertaken by such broadcasters in relation to –
(i) The protection of children:
(ii) The portrayal of violence:
(iii) Fair and accurate programmes and procedures for correcting factual errors and redressing unfairness:
(iv) Safeguards against the portrayal of persons in programmes in a manner that encourages the denigration of, or the discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, race, age, disability or occupational status or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs:
(v) Restrictions on the promotion of liquor:
(vi) Presentation of appropriate warnings in respect of programmes that have been classified as suitable only for particular audiences:
(vii) The privacy of the individual

(h) To conduct research and publish findings on matters relating to standards in broadcasting.

Recently the BSA upheld a complaint about a TV show called 7 days, a show with a reputation for being a bit on the crass side. In short, there’s a show segment called “my kid could draw that,” where children (in a pre-recorded clip) present a drawing they have made of a recent news item, and show guests have to figure out what the news item is. I think that’s how it works, but the detail of that don’t matter now. A girl showed a picture of some men in a bunk, and it was then explained (after the guests failed to guess the news item) that the picture referred to a proposal – one that had gained some publicity – to double bunk inmates in prisons to save money. The girl explained that the picture read, “No money, plus a lot of prisoners, equals a lot of grossness up ahead.” You can guess the kind of humour that this might prompt, and sure enough a few wise cracks were then made by those taking part in the game about sexual antics between men in prisons.

The TV show was broadcast at 10pm and was preceded by a verbal warning that some content may offend. However, the Authority upheld part of the complaint on the grounds that this was sexually lewd material that was shown to be connected in some way to a drawing made by a specific child. Accordingly the show segment was deemed to have violated standards of decency and good taste. Read the decision here. Continue reading “The BSA, the ASA and “good taste””

Brian Tamaki and Destiny Church – When “Cults” Fill the Void

“Bishop” Brian Tamaki

It’s not common to find a well resourced and organised, well presented, enthusiastically socially proactive, theologically conservative (for the most part) and outspoken Christian church in New Zealand. The combination of all four is a rare commodity. So in recent history when Brian Tamaki’s Destiny Church showed up, it naturally attracted a lot of attention, both good and bad. It was all of those things – plus a few other things. But in part because of those four things all together, it was like a lighthouse for a number of disenfranchised Christians who felt that other churches really weren’t going to make the kind of difference they wanted to see.

Added to this package, however, were a few other things – things often seen as the darker side of some Pentecostal churches. There had always been an intense focus on the church’s leadership, in this case just one man, Brian Tamaki, who took the title “bishop” in spite of the church not having an episcopal leadership model. All of the church’s publicity, including its own television broadcasts, were centred on one individual. Mr Tamaki was at the centre not because of any qualifications that made him knowledgeable or especially skilled at anything in particular, but rather because of the belief that he is God’s chosen man. A very strong emphasis in Mr Tamaki’s teaching on submission to church leadership (I’ll never forget – “If you don’t have a pastor, you’re heading for disaster”) was also a concern for many, as it raised the spectre of unquestionable authority, or at very least the sustained focus on such submission suggested an unhealthy imbalance towards human authority. It’s also a common feature in charismatic movements like this – and Destiny is no exception – that a great deal of authority to teach the Christian faith is vested in those who at times almost seem to flaunt the fact that they have no theological training. Such, we might be told sometimes, is the stuff of old stuffy religious people in ivory towers, all we really need is a strong leadership above us, a leadership that is in touch with God. In the eyes of many, it’s like a 16 year old boy with no licence being given the fastest car in town. A respect for one’s teaching that has not been earned, but which is taken very seriously by the flock. Continue reading “Brian Tamaki and Destiny Church – When “Cults” Fill the Void”

Episode 030: Religion in the Public Square: Is it Justified?


When I was at the University of Canterbury in July I gave two talks. Episode 29 was one of those talks, on abortion. This talk was actually based on the same material that served as the basis for episode 3, so there will be obvious similarities.

Think of this as a consolation prize while I (very slowly) finish the next episode in the series In Search of the Soul. Hey, if you want me to get these things done faster, then hire me. 🙂

Glenn Peoples

Episode 003: Religion in the Public Square, Part 2


parliament-godPart 2 of a 2 part series on Religion in the Public Square.

For those interested, here’s the transcript for this episode, and here‘s the transcript for episode 2. Comments are welcome, and remember, if you’d like to email questions/comments/feedback for me to address in the show, feel free to use the contact button over on the right.

Episode 002: Religion in the Public Square, Part 1


parliament-godDo our religious beliefs have any place in our political and public life?

This is the first of 2 episodes on religion in the public square, a subject that will probably come up from time to time at the podcast.

Dennett. Yawn, says Jack Miles.


Apparently, people other than conservative Christian scholars have noticed that Daniel Dennett’s analysis of the divide between religion and skepticism is shallow. See Jack Miles’ Review here.

Dennett sets out to tell us all that we need to break the spell of religion, and break it now. But so much of what he says ends up being more sauce than meat. For example, says Miles:

[I]ntellectual outbursts emotionally akin to “Let’s step outside and settle this, shall we?” keep intruding. Thus we read: “If theists would be so kind as to make a short list of all the concepts of God they renounce as balderdash before proceeding further, we atheists would know just which topics were still on the table, but, out of a mixture of caution, loyalty, and unwillingness to offend anyone ‘on their side,’ theists typically decline to do this.” Perhaps so, but then is Dennett prepared to perform a comparable triage for the favorite topics of his fellow atheists? Where do “we atheists” stand, for example, with regard to fellow atheist Howard Stern? We theists would like to know, if Dennett would be so kind, though we fear that out of a mixture of caution, loyalty and unwillingness to offend, he may pass over America’s most influential single atheist in silence.Truth to tell, this kind of game is depressingly easy to play just like the games, and it’s a rare student of religion who really wants to be drawn into it.

What’s got Dennett so riled up? Miles suggests that it’s because while skepticism has better arguments, it’s dying out anyway. That may well be how Dennett would choose to describe the state of philosophical affairs, but in light of the recent upsurge in religious belief rather than skepticism in philosophers of religion, this charge is more than a little difficult to maintain without serious misgivings. One sociological fact, however, is much harder to deny:

Fertility rates in the relatively secular blue states are 12 percent lower than in the relatively religious red states, according to Philip Longman in the March/April issue of Foreign Policy. In Europe, a similar correlation holds. As Longman writes: “Do you seldom, if ever, attend church? For whatever reason, people answering affirmatively . . . are far more likely to live alone, or in childless, cohabitating unions, than those who answer negatively.” For the most secular cultures in the world, Longman predicts a temporary drop in absolute population as secular liberals die out and a concomitant cultural transformation as, “by a process similar to survival of the fittest,” they are demographically replaced by religious conservatives.

It’s almost enough to make you believe in Dominion Theology!

Ed hits it on the head


I like Ed Feser. I discovered fairly recently that he has written a number of pieces on the topic of my current PhD research, namely religious convictions in public life.

One issue that I’m writing on at the moment is the following claim: We should only advocate policies in public that rest entirely on assumptions and convictions that can be defended in such a way that we could reasonably expect that our fellow citizen should take those assumptions and convictions seriously, and if we cannot defend those assumptions and convictions, then we should not support those policies. Therefore, we should not advocate any policies that depend on religious beliefs.

That’s it, premise and conclusion. I could comment on the premise, but that would be a different subject altogether for now. I want to ask, is there anything missing from the above argument? Well yes, there’s a second premise which is apparently so obvious that it doesn’t even need to be stated, let alone defended. here it is: “no religious assumptions and convictions are such that they could be defended in such a way that we could reasonably expect that our fellow citizen should take those assumptions and convictions seriously.”

So there you have it, religious citizens. In order to be good citizens, a number of left leaning liberals tell us (e.g. Rawls, Gaus, Macedo, and to an extent Robert Audi) , you just have to accept that your religious beliefs are indefensible.

When writing a PhD, I have a tendency to not be too scathing if I can help it. Thankfully I get to quote people like Ed Feser, who do not have such tendencies.

The problem, in the view of many liberals, is that religious considerations are matters of faith, where “faith” connotes in their minds a kind of groundless commitment, a will to believe that for which there is no objective evidence. Opinions on matters of public policy, they would say, can only appropriately be arrived at via methods of argument assessable by all members of the political community, not by reference to the idiosyncratic and subjective feelings of a minority. If religious arguments were in general really like this, then I would agree with the liberal that they ought to be kept out of the public square. But in fact this liberal depiction of religion is a ludicrous caricature, and manifests just the sort of ignorance and bigotry of which liberals frequently accuse others.